Bolivar coach Daniel Bayless offered a short summary of his state silver medal 4-x-800 meter relay’s past seven days. 

“Last week, they ran the race of their life, and this week, they ran faster,” he said trackside Saturday, May 25, at the Class 4 state track meet.

Bolivar’s Brett Pollock, Tracen McKinney, Hunter Davis and Dylan Rowell broke a school record at the Class 4 Section 1 meet the weekend before, running 7:59.70. The four turned in 7:59.65 to set a new mark on the state’s highest stage Saturday. 

Only Festus’ team could match Bolivar’s pace, with multi-time state gold medalist Max McDaniel jumping clear of the Liberators’ Dylan Rowell in the race’s closing meters. 

“Our handoffs were good,” Bayless said. “Everything was awesome. Festus, it was their day. (McDaniel) had to run a 1:55 or a 1:56 to catch our boy. Our kids left everything on the track and competed. They peaked at the right time. We got everything out of them we could get out of them. I’m happy with that.”

Davis, who joined the relay at sectionals, ran the third leg. Knowing McDaniel’s speed, he said he tried to give Rowell a big lead without running out of gas.

“I knew that Festus’ last runner, Max McDaniel, was ridiculously fast, so I knew I had to give Dylan at least two seconds,” he said. “Right from the start, I gunned it. I got down to the 200-meter mark, and then coach yelled at me, ‘Hunter, run smart,’ so I knew at that point I took off too fast, and I had to slow down as I was coming in to start my second lap. I could feel some bodies coming back up to me, so I slid out a bit to the edge of lane one, so they’d have to go further around me to pass me, and I didn’t think they were going to pass me. Some guy from Webster Grove came around on my right side. He was kicking hard and I decided, ‘I’m not going to let him get me,’ so I started kicking and then I just kept kicking.”

Rowell held off the charging McDaniel for about 750 of his 800 meters, he said. 

“I went for it, and he passed me,” he said. “I tried to stay with him, but he just had more than I did.”

Putting their name on it

Rowell said the group had made breaking the record its priority this year. 

“We really wanted it. That was our season goal,” he said. 

Breaking it the week before meant the team carried confidence into the state meet, Pollock added. 

“It was like, we broke it the week before and that was the main goal. Now, we didn’t have to focus on it,” he said. 

McKinney’s father was on the team that set the record in 1990. He said he’d always dreamed of it. 

“I’ve always been on the varsity 4-x-800,” he said. “I had some really good mentors, and we’d always thought of getting that now-29 year old record. With this group, we were finally able to do it. It was always a dream for me because my dad was on the team that set it. We were finally able to break it, put my name on it and I got to do it with an amazing group of guys.”

Rowell, McKinney 10th, 14th in 800

Following their championship run, Rowell and McKinney lined up for the 800 run later Saturday. 

McKinney, 14th at 2:08.08, said that while the result wasn’t his best, the team met its goal in the earlier 4-x-800 relay.

“Not necessarily happy with my time,” he said, “but our main mission got accomplished today.”

The two had entered the race riding high but struggled early on, he said. 

“I think Dylan and I both felt good,” he said. “The gun fired. I felt good, but my legs were just not there.”

Rowell was 10th in 2:02.82. He said he’d crossed the first 200 meters in around 29 seconds — on mark for a good result, but his first lap ended off pace. He tried to kick off his opponents early but was swarmed and passed. 

Bayless said the duo’s success in the relay may have been their undoing. 

“They had a tough go,” he said. “It may have been a little emotional letdown from the 4-x-800. We ran good times. I would have liked to have seen a little better times, but again, their main focus was the 4-x-800 and they put all they had into that race.”

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